Here We Go Again
We didn't spend much time on it last week because it had little to do with the Big Ten, but the Big XII received permission to hold a championship game without expanding to twelve teams, so long as it plays the round robin schedule that it already plays. Most believed that the decision would prevent any short-term expansion move by the Big XII and usher in an era of stability.
And then Oklahoma president David Boren, who was sort of the impetus for the championship game move in the first place, talked to the Tulsa World. Suddenly, it looks like Oklahoma is looking for a lifeboat. The money quote:
"I think if -- if -- we can get the Big 12 on the right track, if this comprehensive plan could be adopted, then I would rather stay in the Big 12," he said. "I think that would be to our advantage. But it's something that we really need to have happen. But we just need to wait and see what develops. Certainly, my first choice, if we can get the right things done in the Big 12, the right steps taken, especially these three, then I think we ought to stay in the Big 12. If it just doesn't happen, then I try to think long-term."
Boren was also specifically asked if Oklahoma has a standing invite to join the Big Ten, a longstanding rumor in realignment circles. His response:
"Well, I wouldn't comment on that. I don't think it would be appropriate to comment. I would say that there are no official outstanding invitations from anyone right now, but there are always, always informal conversations that we get approached (with) from time to time, and I think the strength of our program, we're always considered a Top 10 program in the country. So we're always attractive to the conferences. We have comprehensive strength. We're talking about football, we're talking about basketball, we're talking about gymnastics, other things. We have a very strong, comprehensive program. Our brand, I noticed in one of the magazines recently, they measured the worth of the top brands in the country, as they saw it, athletically, and we were in the top six, ranked in that fashion. So I think there are always opportunities for Oklahoma."
Boren's comments since the summer have indicated he is finally fed up with Texas and wants to at least consider a move:
David Boren's comments about wanting Big 12 expansion with the "right schools" was more of a warning shot to the rest of the league because, frankly, the "right schools" wouldn't ever take a Big 12 invite. As a result, everyone in Sooners land seems to agree on the overarching desire to leave the Big 12....
Oklahoma tried to play the conference championship card to force expansion. That didn't work. Now it could go to Plan B, and with the reasonable options for Big 12 expansion -- Cincinnati, Connecticut, BYU, Boise State, Houston -- not exactly igniting the imagination of the conference fanbases, moving elsewhere could make sense to Oklahoma. The Sooners' athletic department wants SEC prestige. The academics want Pac-12 prestige. Joining the Big Ten is the best compromise for both.
The big question: Does it make sense for the Big Ten? Virginia and North Carolina have always been the objects of Jim Delany's desire, but with the ACC's rights agreement making another east coast poaching prohibitive at best, the Big XII could again be the target if Delany again wants to expand. Obviously, the continued dysfunction of a conference centered around one school that maintains its own network but didn't make a bowl game this season leaves it most likely to fly apart; one phone call from Delany or the Pac-12's Larry Scott could bring the whole thing down. And with four Playoff spots split between five conferences, bringing the whole thing down could be advantageous in and of itself.
You Have Discovered Calendar
Iowa's 2016 Big Ten basketball schedule is extremely quirky. The Hawkeyes have no Saturday home games for the first time in at least 58 years (they've never had less than two, actually), and just survived the longest conference layoff in a generation. When I was talking about this with my dad this weekend, he correctly said, "If I was Barta, I'd be raising hell about that."
So how did we get the weirdest calendar in program history? It's because those things don't matter anymore. As Chad Leistikow from the DMR reports, the Big Ten's fifteen scheduling priorities don't get to nine-day layoffs or Saturday home dates:
[Big Ten associate commissioner Mark] Rudner and the Big Ten office in May surveyed every coach to formulate "15 scheduling principles" that are being used to establish the schedule for at least the next few years.
The principles are ranked 1 through 15, with the top five being considered borderline sacred. But jamming 252 conference games in 70 days for 28 men's and women's teams leaves imperfections.
"To have 100 percent compliance with the 15 principles for all 28 teams," Rudner says, "I think everybody feels is unreasonable. So you do the best you can and keep as many of the top principles as you can."
Those fifteen priorities include the obvious -- no games without at least two practice days, a split of bye dates between the first and second halves of the season -- and the absurd -- if a team opens the conference season at home, it is supposed to end on the road -- but there is no mention of the length of layoff or the weekend date of games. Leistikow has Barta saying that scheduling quirks will even out. I'm not so sure of that.
Jarrod Uthoff, who was omitted from just about every list of the nation's top players entering this season, could win the Wooden Award as the nation's best player. Uthoff was named to the midseason Wooden watch list, and received prime billing.
To say Uthoff has been an All-American-level performer feels slightly obvious, given how good he's been. It's worth reinforcing, though, considering Uthoff's relative lack of fame. Before this season, the former Wisconsin transfer was best known as the subject of a rancorous transfer split with former coach Bo Ryan; even after two solid years at Iowa, he didn't make our #CBBRank top 100 in November. Now the 6-foot-9 Uthoff is recording 18.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He's also shooting 53 percent from 2 and 46 percent from 3 -- while taking 30 percent of Iowa's shots, by the way -- with an 80 percent mark from the free throw line. That is, indeed, All-American level stuff.
Obviously, Oklahoma's Buddy Hield has been a beast and ESPN has decided that Ben Simmons is the only important thing about college basketball this season, but if Iowa keeps winning, Hield stumbles, and the Worldwide Leader suddenly discovers that a six-loss SEC team is on its air every other night, Uthoff could be in line for college basketball's most prestigious award.
ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett names Kirk Ferentz "Big Ten Person of the Year":
Certainly no one would expect a booming career renaissance from a 60-year-old coach, one who'd been at the same school since before the new milliennium and who carried a reputation for being conservative, if not outdated. Yet that's exactly what Kirk Ferentz achieved at Iowa in one of the more remarkable one-year turnarounds in recent memory.
We have yet another shakeup on the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. Out: Jeff Long, who was kind of a joke on television but transparent about the process. In: Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt.
The main-site bracket guys have not yet processed this week's results, but even entering Sunday's game, Iowa had entered the mix for a two seed:
Saturday seed list (CAPS=AQ): 01-Okla, 02-Kansas, 03-UNC, 04-NOVA, 05-Xavier, 06-MichSt, 07-Md, 08-WVU, 09-UVa, 10-Miami, 11-IOWA, 12-A&M...— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) January 16, 2016
Numbers 6, 9 and 10 lost over the weekend, so, yeah, Iowa's probably a two seed as of Monday.
Iowa football is 15th in a composite of sixteen extremely early preseason polls. If that holds, it would be the Hawkeyes' highest preseason ranking since 2010. That's actually true if they remain in the Top 25, to be fair.
Are you a member of the media? Looking for new things to hate? Use the EDSBS Random Bias Assigner. I have been assigned Ohio, Oregon, the MAC and Will Muschamp, which is a bit redundant but whatever.
when you and your buddies get free chips cause you know the sandwich artist pic.twitter.com/MVh9YjTzLV— Subway WWExperience (@WWESubway) January 14, 2016